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The Secret Subway

by Shana Corey
Illustrated by Red Nose Studio

Published by Schwartz & Wade, 2016
32 pages
ISBN: 978-0-375-87071-2

Ages 7-11

Alfred Ely Beach was a genius who was ahead of his time. In the mid-19th century, he came up with an idea that would help to solve New York City’s congested streets: an underground train. His vision was of a train powered by an enormous fan, but he knew the idea was unlikely to be approved by Boss Tweed and Tammany Hall, so instead he proposed building a system of tubes underground to carry mail. After getting permission to proceed, he rented the basement of a clothing store to use as his headquarters and hired workers to come in each day to start digging a tunnel. They loaded wagon after wagon with dirt to carry off under the cover of darkness each night. After almost two months, they had a tunnel that was eight feet across and 294 feet long, and then Beach hired more workers to come in to paint and decorate the interior. When the work was completed, Beach invited local dignitaries and the general public to come and experience the “train of the future.” Although it was a sensation, Beach was ultimately refused permission to expand, and before too long the secret subway lay dormant – forgotten and neglected – until forty years later when it was discovered by other workers digging a tunnel for what is today the New York City subway system. Shana Corey used primary source documents to uncover this buried bit of fascinating history, and she tells the story in an engaging manner that will draw readers in. Artist Chris Sickels of Red Nose Studio constructed intricate three-dimensional illustrations which aptly convey the depth of the subterranean world in which Beach labored, using characters made from wire and foam, and painted scenery as backdrops. The back of the book’s dust jacket provides an illustrated guide to how the book’s artwork was created from the initial photo research and sketches to the final lighting and photography, a story almost as interesting as the subway itself.  © Cooperative Children's Book Center


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